I can hardly believe that it’s been a year since I left the chilly shores of Dear Old Blighty behind me for the sunnier climes of the Southern United States. For the first time in a very long time I experienced a winter without any snow! I can’t tell you how good that feels; no scraping ice off the windscreen, no shovelling snow, no slipping and sliding on glassy pavements, no woolly gloves and scarves, no thermal hats or linings to ones shoes, no heavy moleskin trousers or innumerable layers of clothing, no cars being snowed in or stuck because the roads are covered in ice, no weeks and weeks of slush everywhere and salt on ones shoes, no heavy overcast skies for day after day, no biting cold wind whistling round your trossocks, no frozen cheeks and numb ears, no depressing news broadcasts about the country being snowed under with the worst snowfalls since records began… blah, blah, blah, no sore body parts from having slipped umpteen times whilst negotiating ones way from car to front door, in fact, none of those things at all. Haha! What a joy, what a blessèd relief. Instead, I have spent most of the winter wandering around dressed in a t-shirt and medium weight jumper. No need for a jacket when I go outdoors. I admit, there has been quite a bit of rain but after the rain comes …? Sunshine, yay! As I told you, I was cutting the grass at Christmas, and I have been ever since at least once a fortnight. Fantastic! I tell you, this winter made it all worthwhile.
So, we’ve been busy this last six months or so with phase two of our renovations to this stately pile. Phase one consisted mainly of trying to get the house to a state where we could at least live in it without falling down a hole or having the roof cave in – though in fact we’ve had to wait for the roof to be replaced until phase two. Phase one gave us working bathrooms – with the main bathroom completely gutted and redone, redecorated main and spare bedrooms, a toilet/laundry room (Americans call it a half-bath) with washing machine and tumble dryer, a cooker, fridge and microwave in the kitchen along with scrubbed kitchen cabinets, walls, floor, etc., air conditioning, lights, some ceiling fans, some rewiring, some plumbing renovations, and a few other things besides. By the time we got to the end of phase one I was sick of workmen/builders tramping all over the place, sick of the dust from the rubble and the mess as walls were knocked down, floors taken up, ceilings replaced and so on, you know the drill. So we had a break for a while whilst we recuperated from the first round and prepared ourselves for the next.
The difficulty with that approach is that one still has to sit there and look at all the things you wish you’d been able to get done in the first round but hadn’t/didn’t/couldn’t, as was the case for me with the leaking roof over my study. At first it wasn’t too bad, just the occasional drip came through if there was a particularly heavy rainfall, but, as is usually the way with these things, it rapidly started to get worse and worse until it was a steady drip… drip… drip all day, every day, all winter long. Then, the roof started to leak in the spare room as well, eminently annoying since we’d just had the whole room redecorated. We ended up with two very large tarpaulins nailed to the roof to try and limit the ingress of water but even so it still got in. Phase two, therefore, was to deal principally with the roofs. Boy, what a saga that was! I’m happy to report that we now have a lovely pristine, dry and secure roof on our house, which we expect to last for at least the next thirty years, if not longer. Getting to this point, though, was a wearisome journey, wrought with frustration, arguments, disappointment, hair pulling, wailing, gnashing of teeth and general rending of clothes and wearing of sackcloth (biblical reference there). Why? Because we fell foul of those monsters of mishap, those demons of devastation, those denizens of disaster, that ghoulishly stalk the leafy crescents and avenues of respectable neighbourhoods looking for their next victim, the dreaded storm chasers.
It all started one sunny day with a knock at the front door – that alone should have warned of things to come since he, the person at the door, had totally overlooked our handsome, illuminated, doorbell push button, an error predestined to aggravate one harassed yet proud home owner. The young man that patiently waited on the porch step, dressed in what appeared to be a uniform of beige chino trousers and green polo shirt replete with natty logo that said “A1 Roofing,” enthusiastically greeted me as I opened the door by smartly stepping forward and shaking my hand. I can’t write what a southern accent sounds like so you’ll just have to do your best to imagine it but suffice it to say his sentences were liberally splashed with “y’alls” and “yes sirs.” Anyway, the gist of it was that he informed me that as he had been passing by he’d noticed that we had some storm damage to our roof caused by hail.
Now, I’ve seen plenty of hailstorms in my time and I can well remember frolicking about in them in my youth, especially at school, giggling at how the little chips of ice bounced off the ground and how they even stung a bit if they hit a patch of bare skin. Not really a storm but more of a shower, I think. Well, that’s child’s play, literally. Here, when they talk about damage caused by hail they’re talking about hail stones the size of tennis balls, hurled to the ground as if by Zeus himself, with sufficient force to smash glass, seriously dent cars, and cause enough damage to property and the roofs of buildings that the federal government declared the area a disaster zone after the last major storm in June of last year. These are serious hailstorms, and if you happen to be outside when one of these babies hits, well, boy you sure don’t wannabee, no sir, you’d better seek shelter as fast as you can (see, I’m picking up the accent already). We have a large two-car carport in the “yard” at the rear of the house. When I first saw it I thought it a monstrous eyesore whose only value was in the “a-lu-min-ium” it was constructed from. How wrong I was and I’m not too proud to say that it is actually a very useful, and necessary, attachment to our property.
Now that he had explained to me that in all likelihood our roof was ‘seriously’ damaged my new young friend (I say “friend” because it was clear from the moment he saw me that he wanted to be my friend) asked if he could climb up onto the roof to examine it more closely. Having consented to his request, he immediately pulled out his mobile phone and called his buddy, who miraculously appeared a few minutes later, as if he’d been waiting offstage listening for his cue, in a white van fully kitted out with extendable long ladders. Fifteen minutes later they climbed back down and reconfirmed that the main roof of the house was indeed damaged by hail and that I could make a valid claim on our insurance for replacing the roof. My kind friend even offered to call the insurance company on my behalf and put the claim in right there and then.
To cut a long story short, what happened was that the initial claim yielded an inspection by an official representative from our insurers. His inspection, however, only validated the leak in the study roof and the one in the attic, which meant that the amount of reparation the insurance company was prepared to pay out, was insufficient to replace the whole roof. My “friend,” when he heard this, turned out to be no more than a Jobs comforter, and I was left choking in the fumes from their exhaust as he and his pals sped off down the street leaving us with nothing other than our shattered dreams and a miserly insurance cheque hardly adequate enough to instigate even minor repairs to the roof.
So that was that. For a brief moment we thought we might actually be able to get a new roof but it was not to be. Instead we were left with the disheartening realisation that the cost of re-roofing was going to be higher than we had at first thought. Still, we had managed to obtain $1,600 from the insurance company. WooHoo! Way to go A1 Roofing. Thanks a bundle.
Stay tuned for part 2 of, “It’s Life Jim, But Not As We Knew It.”
All photographs by w5th.